Rusty Morrison Receives the James Laughlin Award: $5,000 for an Outstanding Second Book

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Sep 18 2008

New York, September 18—The Academy of American Poets announced today that Rusty Morrison's collection the true keeps calm biding its story (Ahsahta Press) was chosen by poets Rae Armantrout, Claudia Rankine, and Bruce Smith to receive the 2008 James Laughlin Award, which gives $5,000 to the most outstanding second book by an American poet published in the previous year.

About the selection, Claudia Rankine says:

In Rusty Morrison's the true calm keeps biding its story the poem transforms into a machine for transmitting lines across impossible distances. These lines are formed by our most intimate self after the death of someone close. Each poem, with its nine lines, as if to mock the lack of nine lives, ends with the heartbreaking phrase "please advise." In the end we, as readers, are left with a stunning collection, written into the silence of everlasting loss.

Rusty Morrison's the true keeps calm biding its story won Ahsahta's 2007 Sawtooth Prize. Whethering, her first collection, won the 2004 Colorado Prize for Poetry. She has received the Poetry Society of America's Alice Fay DiCastagnola, Cecil Hemley, and Robert H. Winner Memorial Awards. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Bomb, Boston Review, Chicago Review, Pleiades, New American Writing, Volt, Verse, and elsewhere. She recently won the 2008 Patricia Goedicke Prize in Poetry from Cutbank, the University of Montana's literary magazine. She earned her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Saint Mary's College in Moraga, California, and is co-publisher of Omnidawn Publishing in Richmond, CA.

Rae Armantrout has published ten books of poetry, including: Next Life, (Wesleyan, 2007), selected by the New York Times as one of the most notable books of 2007; Up to Speed (2004), a finalist for the PEN USA Award in Poetry; Veil: New and Selected Poems (2001), also a finalist for the PEN Center USA Award; The Pretext (2001); Made To Seem (1995); and The Invention of Hunger (1979). She is also the author of a prose memoir, True, which was published by Atelos in 1998. She has taught writing for almost twenty years at the University of California, San Diego.

Claudia Rankine earned her B.A. in English from Williams College and her M.F.A. in poetry from Columbia University. She is the author of four collections of poetry, including Don’t Let Me Be Lonely (Graywolf 2004); PLOT (2001); The End of the Alphabet (1998); and Nothing in Nature is Private (1995), which received the Cleveland State Poetry Prize. She is also the co-editor of American Women Poets in the Twenty-First Century (Wesleyan University Press).

Bruce Smith is the author of five books of poetry, most recently, Songs for Two Voices (University of Chicago, 2005), poems from which appeared in Best American Poetry in 2003 and 2004. His fourth book, The Other Lover (2000), was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. He has been a recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, two grants from the National Endowment of the Arts, and one from the Massachusetts Foundation for the Arts.

The James Laughlin Award is given to commend and support a poet's second book of poetry. The award was established by a gift to the Academy from the Drue Heinz Trust in honor of the poet and publisher James Laughlin (1914–1997). As a sophomore at Harvard College, James Laughlin founded New Directions, one of the most important publishers of twentieth-century literature. Writers whose work has been published by New Directions include Franz Kafka, James Joyce, Denise Levertov, Henry Miller, Ezra Pound, Delmore Schwartz, Gertrude Stein, Tennessee Williams, and William Carlos Williams. Mr. Laughlin was the author of numerous books of fiction, essays, and poetry, including Collected Poems (1993), The Man in the Wall (1993), and Random Stories (1990).

The Academy of American Poets is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1934 to foster appreciation for contemporary poetry and to support American poets at all stages of their careers. For over three generations, the Academy has connected millions of people to great poetry through programs such as National Poetry Month, the largest literary celebration in the world; Poets.org, the most popular site about poetry on the web; the Poetry Audio Archive, capturing the voices of contemporary American poets for generations to come; American Poet, a biannual literary journal; and our annual series of poetry readings and special events. The Academy also awards prizes to accomplished poets at all stages of their careers—from hundreds of student prizes at colleges nationwide to the Wallace Stevens Award for lifetime achievement in the art of poetry. For more information, visit www.poets.org.

The Drue Heinz Trust is a private charitable foundation directed by Drue Heinz, the widow of the "57 Varieties" former chairman She is currently on the Board of Directors of the Paris Review, she is the former publisher of the Paris Review, and Antaeus, the international quarterly of contemporary literature. Mrs. Heinz and James Laughlin were long-time friends and colleagues, sharing a vital interest in good writing.